I'm a devout Indian food fiend, and I know I'm not the only one. I blame being broke while in school in NYC - there were so many delicious, cheeeeap places within walking distance of my studio that most dinners were samosas, mulligatawny soup, and naan. For 4 bucks. Oh, Panna II. I miss you.
There's a bit of a fable that Indian food is difficult to pair wines with, so a sommelier bud of mine (also a worshipper at the throne of Curry, and also an AMAZING photographer - all the shots below are hers) and I set out last weekend to dispel that falsity. Did we? Well, we'll just consider this one installment in a series (since we didn't even make it through three courses, how wimpy is that).
What we did make it through were an hors devours course and a soup course - Pakora-style marinated cauliflower and, for lack of a better descriptive, Indian Mozzarella Sticks, plus a rasam. Which might be my favorite food of all, that thin, picturesque, chili-laced stew. Like the big, sophisticated brother of mulligatawny, acidic, tomato, spicy, just the right amount of stink.
Rasams come in many forms, but share one quality - they're thickened by cooked and mashed dal (mung beans, typically, although I've used red lentils). The one we ate was a pollution of this recipe, which I've been making for a long time. In order to pump the flavors (we went with an aged, super-rosy Reisling as our 2nd course wine, there had to be some serious Ooomph to cut through the flower) I did a lot of roasting - the tomatoes, some garlic, some shallot. Fried curry leaves, crumbled. About three times the asofoetida called for. Many more chilis.
You know by know that I'm a big dumpling fan - I wanted to bring that combination of textures to this stew as well, so I floated some Khaman dumplings in the soup, tender, sour clouds, delectable. A keeper. With killer wine, or without. This was the first time I'd ever made any of the steamed legume cakes so popular in south Indian cuisine and it was fascinating - a totally new preparation of the Holy Pairing of rice and legume, to me - soak them, dry them, grind them, mix with liquid, ferment, and steam. Feisty and time consuming. But such a soft, buttery texture - and an awesome flavor, earthy, cheese, super beany, lovely.
And of course, I couldn't resist dusting them with the last of the tomato powder. Adios, Mars Rock. Which brings me to - my first giveaway!
I want to send you some of these awesome vegetable powders I've been bragging about for months - and all you have to do to enter is leave me a comment below declaring your favorite Indian dish. Masala to Malai Kofta, Curry to Rasam - I want to know. And no, I won't be mad if it's a non-vegetarian dish. In a couple days, I'll randomly pick a name and send that lucky person two pouches of powder, both tomato and spinach. Yay!
Roasted Tomato Rasam with Khaman Dumplings
for the soup:
1/2 cup split mung dal
5 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons ghee
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons brown or black mustard seeds
3 fresh bird's eye chilis, split lengthwise
4 shallots, minced
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes
10 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
Pinch palm sugar
1 tablespoon teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon asafetida powder
4 fresh bird's eye chilis, chopped, deseeded
Handful of fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, small, halved lengthwise
10 fresh curry leaves
Fresh cilantro, minced
for the Khaman dumplings:
3 cups plain Kefir
1/2 cup split yellow peas or mung dal
1/2 cup white basmati rice
2 teaspoons salt
Pinch asafetida powder
1/2 cup peas, frozen
Minced chilis, bird's eye, 2 or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne chili powder
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Let's do this.
Wash your rice and mung dal and set out on towels to dry. With a fan, shouldn't take more than an hour. Put them into your food processor and run until their texture has been reduced to powdered-corn meal. Add buttermilk and set aside in a warm area for 2-3 hours.
Add your remaining ingredients, sans peas, and pour into a greased non-stick quiche or baking pan (mine was an 8x8 square, fit it all perfectly). Add peas, letting them sink to the bottom. Steam over medium-low heat, adding boiling water as needed - easily done using this method or in a wok with a steamer stand. As your rasam is finishing, your dumplings should be solid.
Heat your oven to 450f. Halve your tomatoes and scoop most of the seeds out - toss them with a little olive oil and salt and roast, cut side down, for 20 minutes, or until browned on the edges.
Roast your garlic simultaneously by wrapping the cloves in foil with a little olive oil. Should be done right when your tomatoes are. Chop your tomatoes, reserving as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
As your oven is a-roasting, simmer your mung dal in about 2 cups of water, covered, stirring often, until they completely dissolve. At the end, add your roasted garlic and mash well. You want them super-soft - no structure left whatsoever - so add water and time as needed to achieve this.
In a small skillet, toast your cumin powder over medium heat until fragrant. Set aside to cool.
In the same skillet, heat some vegetable oil to medium hot and fry your curry leaves quickly, until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Heat your ghee in a soup pot and add mustard seeds. Fry until they pop, then add chilis. Add remaining ingredients (don't forget the cumin!) sans the 4 fresh chilis, tomatoes, and cilantro (we're reserving these for garnish). Simmer 20 minutes, until tomatoes have liquified. Add lentils and gently simmer, until they're completely dissolved.
Using a cookie or biscuit cutter, cut rounds of your Khaman dumplings and carefully set them aside. Ladle a generous spoonful or two of rasam into a shallow soup bowl, dust your dumplings with tomato powder (optional) and set them gently in the center of the bowl. Scatter tomatoes, fresh chilis (also optional - for the spice-minded) and cilantro over the soup. Crush and scatter curry leaves as well.
Serve. And, of course, enjoy.